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15 October 2014
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Woe Betide Us If We Were Late!

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Marjorie Wraight (nee Beresford), Ivy, Ron and Frank Beresford and Iris
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Contributed on: 
26 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Lesley Wyatt from Dorking Library and has been added to the website on behalf of Marjorie Wraight with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

I didn’t go to just one school during the war in fact I went to three. I had to move right away to High Wycombe as an evacuee; I don’t remember too much about my school there only that I had great fun playing with my cousins.

I came home in February 1940, I can remember this quite clearly, as I was to be my sister Ivy’s bridesmaid, and her wedding was taking place at St Barnabus Church, Mitcham. As with all wartime weddings it was a low-key affair with borrowed dresses and the reception being held in our garden.

After the wedding my brother, Ron, and I persuaded our parents to let us stay at home therefore I resumed my schooling at Gorringe Park Junior School.

From there, at the age of 11, I moved to Links Central School where most of my school memories belong. Due to the frequent air raids we spent most of our time down in the basement as this was the safest part of the building. Lessons were interrupted and I recall performing plays and concerts to while away the time, and distract the children from the bombing overhead.

My teacher gave me the job of selling the National Saving Stamps to fellow pupils. I was given a special desk for this purpose, the children used to buy saving stamps and collect them in little books once the books were full the children were awarded a National Savings Certificate. The money went off to help the war effort. Children were invited to enter poster competitions to advertise the National Saving Stamps. I recall my poster featured airplanes and pilots due to the fact my brother, Frank, was in the Air force. This took place all over the UK not only in schools.

Despite all the interruptions I remember being particularly pleased with myself for coming top in English in my last ever school exam (don’t ask me about maths).
I left school at 14 along with many others; this was the school leaving age then.
I would have liked to have trained in dressmaking but my Mum found me job!

I started as a junior at Pratts in Streatham, part of the Bon-Marche group, ten shillings a week less five shillings for lunch, Mum took half of this leaving me with 2/6p a week pocket money. I travelled to work on the tram even through air raids, if the siren sounded we had to get off the tram and run for cover in the nearest shelter. I distinctly remember during lunchtime when I was out with my friend Iris a German plane swooping down the high road machine-gunning the whole area. I was absolutely terrified; somebody pushed us into a doorway and we landed face down on the floor. No siren had sounded and therefore we assumed the plane had flown under the radar. Luckily nobody was injured as far as I can remember.

The highlight of my week was going dancing at the Locarno Ballroom, Streatham. My friend and I used to tell the doorman we were 18 in fact we were only 15! We used to waltz to the Victor Sylvester Band until the yanks arrived bringing rock and roll and the jive with them which we enjoyed. In those days we used to go home as soon as the dance finished with mother waiting on the doorstep - no later that 11.30pm.
Woe betide us if we were late!

I hope the few events I have written about will give you an idea of what it was like to be a youngster in war time London.

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